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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

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My GDC 2017 Wrap Up


My Official GDC 2017 Wrap Up Post


   Now that I have officially caught back up to reality, all though I am still recovering mentally, it's time to talk about my experience at GDC. This is going to be a long post, but for anyone who follows me, you know that I am a firm believer in how reflection is the key to retaining information! Plus, I want to be able to come back to this post in 20 years from now to remissness about the good ole' days to my future grandchildren!

   GDC was an absolutely life-changing experience for me and it went better than I could have ever imagined! I hope my post here inspires other's to finally save up some cash to attend their 1st GDC. I promise you, it's worth every penny! Plus, maybe reading through my 1st experience will help others prepare for their own 1st experience.

   I am actually beating myself up for not having attended sooner, but at the same time, I am kind of glad it happened this way. Considering I have been searching for an opportunity to get my foot in the door at an AAA studio since last October, being accepted as a Conference Associate (CA - which I will be using throughout the rest of this blog, not to get confused with the abbreviation for California) was truly a blessing in disguise. I graduated with both my degrees last year, married to the love of my life last year, and GDC was my chance to prove myself to these companies that I have the passion, personality, and the work ethic to be a great asset to their company.

   In order to keep my thoughts together, I am going to do through my adventure day by day. Otherwise, I will be rambling on with joy throughout this whole blog entry and no one would want to read it or be able to follow it. (lol)

*Post Disclaimer*This was by far one of the busiest weeks of my life! I will try to not 'fanboy' too much and keep some names out of here for other people's privacy. This is just a basic overview of my experience. Please do realize that there were millions of things that happened this week and I won't be able to go over everything or every interview I had.

A couple deep breathes and ... WERE OFF TO THE RACES!


SATURDAY


   I had planned my trip from Saturday to Saturday. Why? Because I had to be at the CA orientation Sunday night and it was highly recommended by the other CA's to plan our trip this way. To say that I was excited is an understatement. GDC has been on my bucket list for a very long time. I have been preparing for this day for the past 5 years. I was set to attend GDC with many goals to accomplish, impress the right people, make tons of friends and land an opportunity within a great company. I was also extremely nervous. Yes, me, nervous. I know! Deep down inside, I didn't know how everyone would react to me. I was on my way to the biggest Game Developers Conference in the world. I was nervous because I thought that I would be the dumbest person in the room standing next to some of the greatest developers in the world. So needless to say, my brain was moving at a million miles a minute during my flight to San Fransico. What helped me calm down a little, was knowing that my best friend since 6th grade was attending with me. Even though he wasn't a CA, I knew that having him by my side, we were going to tear the roof off of GDC! Everything that I have worked for, all the blood, sweat and tears, was about to be put to the test.

   The previous weeks before GDC, I maliciously prepared myself as best as I could. Studying, setting up interviews through all the contacts I've made over the years using Linked-IN and the GDC Connect tool. I had also been studying the games and company cultures for those interviews, as well as setting up meet-ups with contacts I've met virtually and was planning on meeting for the first time. After getting my schedule together, I realized, I had about 10 interviews set up during this week. On top of that, it was not only my 1st GDC, but it was also my 1st time as a Conference Associate. So between the 10 or so interviews throughout the week and the 25 hours of work I was scheduled for as a CA, I knew it was going to be one of the biggest challenges I have faced so far in my career. There was no way that I was going to screw this up and I made sure to read every little bit of information, about 10x, that was provided to us in order to be the best CA that I could possibly be. If I was to be invited back year after year as a CA, I had to make sure that I proved my worthiness to my peers.

   One of the great perks of being a CA was that someone had put together flashcards to create a "Face Memory" game using the Anki tool. This tool helps to make remembering things a lot easier, as it's basically a digital flashcard tool. If we wanted to participate, we were to send 3 face shots with an audio recording of our name to a fellow CA. That person put together everyone into flashcards. (If you are that CA who put this together and reading this, THANK YOU!) This was by far one of the coolest thing's I've seen in a while. It really helped with getting to put names to faces before we even had a chance to meet! I absolutely LOVED this idea! I only wish I had more time to study everyone's names and faces, but with there being 400 of us, even a little bit of studying helped me prepare.

Click on the Logo to find out more about Anki!

This is what the Flash Cards looked like in Anki. It would go through each picture, let you try and guess the name first, then it would give you the answer with your audio recording of your name that you made. You could then either select the option "Easy" after you remembered that particular person by heart or you could add them to be cycled through again until you remember.

   Here are just a few images showing off some of the things I had put together for my trip. I had tediously planned every little part of this trip and put everything into a Google Doc which I printed out right before I left. Some of these came from the GDC website, others from doing some research.

Found this map which helped point out the bad areas around our Hotel to the Moscone Center. The Red is the bad area, the green is Moscone, the Red pins are the BART stops, and the Blue pins are where CA's hotels were. Great map to have! Especially if you have never been to San Fransico!

Other images I grabbed from the GDC Site and other resources. The rest of my document I put together were cut out's from the CA manual which I will not be posting here.

   After arriving in San Fransico, as I was waiting in the baggage claim area, I was approached by a gentleman who asked me if I was here for GDC. I was wearing a black Overwatch hat, so it was pretty obvious that I might be. Come to find out, it was a fellow CA! Such a small world? We actually took the same flight out of Chicago to Oakland. (Flew into Oakland because it was cheaper.) It was nice to meet a fellow CA before I even stepped foot out of the airport. We talked a little bit, but headed our separate ways to our hotel. By the end of the week, I actually became quite good friends with this guy. Yay to my 1st CA friend! :) (Sam, if you are reading this, you rock!) So then, I met up with my best friend at our hotel, unpacked, discussed our game plan for the week one last time, and headed out to a few CA pre-GDC meet ups that were scheduled events on Facebook.

   Before we did that, however, we were absolutely starving! So we walked around the area around our hotel in search of some good grub! We came across this burger place called Pearl's and after not finding very much of anything else around the area, we stopped on in. Boy, am I glad we did because these burgers were absolutely delicious! Expensive but my stomach did not care about the price, at the time. (lol) If you ever catch yourself in San Fransico and are in the mood for a good burger, hit up Pearl's! You won't be disappointed!




   The time has come to network! Our 1st stop, after lunch, was a pre meet-up to the main dinner meet-up that night. A meet up at a local brewery? Well, sign me up! I love trying local brews!

The IA's (International Ambassador) were previous CA's from outside the U.S. The CA's came up with this after GDC had to start paying the CA's, as it used to be strictly a volunteer thing. The CA's are so wonderful, they came up with this Ambassador program so that our International family could still attend. How cool is that!?! By the end of this blog, you will realize just how amazing the CA community is and why I am going to speak very highly of them throughout this post.

   After arriving at the Thirsty Bear Organic Brewery, I didn't see any CA's! Well, that's because I wasn't looking well enough apparently because they had already been moved to a separate area due to the sheer size of our group! It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but once I introduced myself as a fellow CA, everyone was extremely happy to finally meet me! It was amazing to see that so many people had studied the face memory. Ton's of people already knew my name! I felt like I was home! We eventually were moved to the 2nd floor because our group got so big! Huge shout out to the folks at the Thirsty Bear for accommodating all of us! If you are ever in San Fransico, I highly recommend stopping by this place for some good local brewed beer and food!


Group photo from Thirsty Bear. This was the beginning. Grew much larger at the end of the night.

   Little did I know, that this 1st event I attended, I would be meeting a person that I would be hanging out with for the rest of the week! What do I mean? Well, after having ordered a couple drinks, my best friend and I ran into this wonderful young lady, who was super nice. After having a very intellectual conversation, come to find out, this young lady was a superstar in the industry and was actually one of the speakers at GDC! I don't want to drop any names here on the blog, but some of you may be able to figure it out as you might know her. (lol) After learning more about her, come to find out, she was also once the Chairwoman for Games Austria, for the IGDA Vienna, and is at the forefront for Women in Games. How cool is that?!? She was such a wonderful person and was actually impressed with how prepared I was, being a 1st time CA and attending GDC for this 1st time. This was definitely re-assuring to hear and made the rest of the week a lot less nerve-wracking for me. (If you are reading this, you know who you are! Thank you again for being so awesome!)

   After hanging out at this meet-up for a little while and talking with tons of amazing CA's and IA's, we moved onto the next event! We walked as an entire group to the 8th Annual Pre-GDC Dinner! This ended up being a ton of fun and I got to meet a lot of cool people!

Our big group that met outside the Moscone Center to head to the Pre-Dinner.

The Facebook event for this meet-up.

   This event was actually a lot of fun! If you get the chance to attend GDC next year, I highly recommend attending the 9th Annual Pre-GDC Dinner! It was a food park filled with food trucks and tons of places to sit. I actually ran into someone who is interviewing for the same position I am at Blizzard! Ironic, right? Except, she currently works for Telltale and also worked at Riot Games before that. How can I compete with that? (LOL) Breaking into this industry is not easy, especially when your competition has a track record like that. I didn't let it bring me down, in fact, it just motivated me even more. She was actually an extremely awesome person and I am very glad that I met her. She was very inspiring to me! We are now connected on social media and have become friends! Having friends with valuable insights in the industry like she has is absolutely priceless!

   After that, my best friend and I headed back to our hotel room for the night. We had actually planned on going back a little early so that I could study for my upcoming interviews and collaborate on our game plan for the upcoming week. When we got back to the hotel room, my laptop decided it was going to go into an "infinite restart loop". DOH! Why me!?! I literally used my laptop right before I left for the airport and it was the last thing I packed. This was a big damper on the night and I spent the rest of the evening trying to fix it without having to do a complete restore. I attempted a few things but nothing was working. I ended up going to bed as I needed to get some much-needed rest for the busy week ahead.

Tried everything in the Advanced Options except the System Restore. Eventually, I had to cave in.


SUNDAY



   The fun begins! This was the day of our Conference Associate Orientation, which didn't start until around dinner time. We had the choice of volunteering to work before the orientation, which I, of course, jumped all over the opportunity. So for my 1st shift as a CA, I went and helped with the "Bag Stuffing Circuit" as they call it. Before we did, however, we had to take a photo of our face for the CA wall and to get our t-shirts and badges!

My 1st official GDC Badge! Yay! So exciting!

Me and my best friends badges. He didn't get his badge until after I did on Sunday during early registration.


Our wonderful CA GDC 2017 T-Shirts!!!

My photo they took for the wall. The Gold Star's is a program inside the CA family. You can give and receive Gold Stars to fellow CA's for doing good deeds during the convention. I must have impressed a few of my fellow CA's as I got 4 Gold Stars this year!

   Did you attend GDC this year? Remember that goodie bag you received at registration after you receive your badge? Those were hand stuffed by none other than the wonderful CA's! It was quite obvious that they have done this before because they had a very well organized system to make this process go as smooth as possible. I guess after having done this for the past 20 years or so, the CA Staff knew what they were doing! Kudos to them for organizing this!

Was greeted at the door to my 1st work shift by these 2 lovely faces! :) 
This picture came from a fellow CA on Facebook.

   With over 26,000 industry professionals attending the conference, we also had to stuff over 26,000 bags. (lol) So needless to say, I was very impressed with how organized it was. It was an excellent first experience and I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with my fellow CA who was working next to me. He was very inspiring to talk too and if he is reading this, he knows who he is! :)



A few pics I took during the Bag Stuffing Circuit!

   So after working for a few hours in an assembly line, my 1st official shift as a CA was up! I then met up with my best friend and hung around for a little while until the orientation started later that night. Everyone I had already met and talked with had been absolutely amazing and so nice! I had read over the CA manual many times before the orientation, but it was nice to get a meal and sit down with everyone to go over all the information once again. Plus, as we all know in this industry, things can change in an instance. All and all, the CA orientation was awesome and full of tons of great information and insights to the upcoming crazy week we were all about to have. 

Nice panoramic picture of orientation, compliments of another fellow CA I got on Facebook.

1 of many slides during the presentation we went over. Being a CA comes with great responsibility!

Besides the orientation being awesome, can't forget to give the food a shout out! :) Nom Nom Nom!

   Needless to say, things were already starting to get really exciting! After the Orientation let out, I headed back to the hotel to try and get one more good night's rest before the crazy week ahead. Finally got sick of trying to fix my computer and considering most of my files were on the cloud, I just did a system restore. So I spent the rest of the night studying and going over my CA manual.


MONDAY


   The day has come! Started the morning off right with a great hearty breakfast and headed to the Moscone Center as I had to be there every morning at 9 am for the CA morning meeting. It seemed like my entire schedule for the week had me working at around 9:30. So I didn't get the chance to stay for every morning meeting but I stayed as long as I could before I had to go report for work.The morning meetings were always fun, starting off with our CA ballad! The CA's are so awesome and wonderfully talented. 

The official ballad of the Conference Associate! #SoCAWeAll <3

   I'm not going to lie, I was chanting "NEON SHIIIRRRTTS" the rest of the entire week in my head. This song will stick to your soul! Big props to my fellow CA's for making and putting this video together! I jam out to it in my car now! The morning meeting also usually had a surprise guest, a mini-show, or a CA success story which I thought was absolutely amazing! Loved getting to see everyone's passion and talent in the morning, plus, it helped motivate us! Of course, we also went over any important news or updates as things tend to change on the fly a lot. 

   So now the time has come to work my first session as a CA! I was a little nervous at first but I had signed up to work sessions for a reason. Out of the group who was working a particular session, one of us had to "Prep" the speaker. What in the world does that mean? It means that whoever preps the speaker, get's to go up, introduce themselves and act as an assistant to the person actually talking the session. Now you know why I signed up for this job? (lol)

Prepping the speaker included:

  • Remembering TRAINED
    • Times up. Offering the speaker a preference on when they would like to be warned when their time is about up for their session.
    • Repeat questions. Reminding the speaker to repeat any questions during the QnA for the sake of the viewers watching later on the GDC Vault.
    • A/V. If they needed any A/V assistance, get the A/V tech in the room immediately.
    • Introduce myself. This was the most important in my book. You have to realize, the people who are speaking at GDC, are some pretty top notch developers. I mean, come on, they are speaking at GDC. Of course, I want to introduce myself to these folks.
    • Noise Makers. Let the speakers know not to be afraid to ask the audience to turn off any noise makers, ie. Cell Phones.
    • Electronic evaluations. Reminding the speaker to remind the attendees to fill out the evaluation forms that they will receive in their e-mail. Hence, why we scan all the badges before people enter. These evals help with GDC preparing for next year's events on what people liked and didn't like about particular sessions.
    • De-frag. Asking the attendees to move to the center of the rows so that people coming in at the last minute or during the session doesn't have to walk over a bunch of people to get a seat. 
   But, that wasn't the only thing I had to keep an eye on! When I was working these sessions, my duties included but were not limited to;
  • Checking and scanning badges at the door with our cool high-tech scanners
  • Helping out with traffic and overflow
  • Keeping an eye on the time to make sure no session goes over the time they have been allotted. This was extremely important to maintaining the flow of GDC's sessions. We had to have enough time to get the room cleared out and ready for the next upcoming session. All the speakers were really diligent about this and I had absolutely no issues with this the entire week.
  • Enforcing the recording policy was another big responsibility. There are a plethora of rules to go along with it that I won't get into. But I did have to ask a lot of the attendees to stop recording.
  • Making sure to send everyone to a "Wrap-up" area outside the room so that anyone who wanted to talk with the speaker after his or her session was over, they weren't running over into the next sessions time. These wrap-up rooms are a life saver and an extremely brilliant idea. This way, anyone who wants to talk to the speaker after the session is over will get a chance too.
  • The most important job of all was adhering to Fire Code safety. GDC is no secret in San Fransico anymore and the Fire Marshall is well aware of this event. We had to make sure that everyone in the room watching the session wasn't breaking any Fire Code rules. (ie. Blocking doors, sitting on the floor, or standing against the side walls, and making sure to be aware when the room was at capacity, etc. Boring stuff, but extremely important in the event of an emergency)
   So needless to say, all though to some it may look like we are just walking around and not doing anything. Trust me, we are working. If it wasn't for the CA's, GDC would be an unorganized disaster!

   Now, for my first session! My 1st session as a CA was a sponsored session by Google called "Google Developer Day Keynote". As I arrived at the session, I asked the other CA's if they were okay with me prepping the speaker, which they were. When I walked in, the Google speakers were running some trial runs before the session started. It didn't really hit me until I walked into the room that there was more than just one speaker! Doh! My nerves were running like crazy, but I took a couple deep breathes and charged on in there. I immediately found the lady who was running the event for Google. She wasn't hard to find as she was running around with a laptop, talking to all the developers, and giving people task's to do. I introduced myself and let her know that if she needed anything that I was her guy! So after the speakers were done practicing, I had to do my prepping duties. But how was I going to do it when there were multiple developers? I wasn't just going to go up to each individually and go through my whole speech. Well, it was time to suck up those nerves! I walked on stage and spoke to the entire Google crew! I did my introduction, thanked them for all the work and support for that they do for indies in the industry, and went over the TRAINED portion of my speech. It wasn't bad at all! I didn't really get wide-eyed until after my work shift was up for the session. Why? I didn't realize how many important people were in that room at the time and let me tell you, there were quite the handful of important people in the industry I just had some serious face time with. From the CTO at Niantic to the PM Director at Google. By reading the board outside the room with the list of names, you can understand a little more as well. (lol) You can also check out the list of speakers from Google's very own GDC 2017 page by clicking HERE. Plus, Google was actually LIVE streaming this event on their YouTube channel at the time too! That experience is something I will never forget! The session was absolutely amazing and I am so glad that I got to participate in it first hand.

Here is what the GDC websites description stated about this session: (Click HERE for website)

"Learn how Google is ramping up efforts to help game developers grow their businesses and make Android a great platform for games. From Play store updates optimized for discovery and engagement, to performance upgrades making high-fidelity gaming come to life on Android devices, 2017 will be another year full of exciting gaming experiences."


Enjoy some pictures from this session that I took!



These next few images are from the Google GDC 2017 page online
(https://events.withgoogle.com/google-developer-day-at-gdc-2017-1/schedule/)


Here is the entire session, compliments of Google, on YouTube! :)

   I could sit here and talk about this session all day, but I would never finish this blog post. I could say this about all the session I worked! So onto the next thing to talk about! After this session was over, I headed to meet up with a friend of mine that I have been talking with virtually who works at Blizzard. :) It was so cool to finally get the chance to meet him! He's a Cinematic Artist on the Overwatch team. We walked around the convention a little bit, shooting the breeze, talking about all the cool things going on at GDC. We then ended up in front of the GDC store and ended up meeting some of his friends who also work at Blizzard and even 1 guy that works for Bungie. The Bungie guy actually graduated from the same College my best friend is currently attending, so they hit it off pretty well too! This was just 1 of many different awesome experiences I had throughout the week! After hanging out with them, my best friend and I hit up a few other areas around the Convention and just started networking and socializing. 

   I actually had a phone interview at 2 pm this day as well! The interview was with a recruiter for a Producer Esports position at Turn 10 Studios! :) She actually had contacted me the week prior to GDC and was completely aware of my busy schedule throughout the week. She had messaged me and asked if I was available to talk today. I made sure to make some time available so that I could have this conversation. Found a nice quiet table to sit at and awaited her call. The interview went extremely well, lasting for an hour! It would have gone even longer if I didn't have to get going to my next session. Needless to say, it was still very rewarding and an honor to have these interviews last as long as they did. It's always a good sign! Fingers crossed! This would be a very cool opportunity!


Logo and picture are from the Turn 10 Studios website (Click HERE to check it out!)

   My next work shift was later in the day for the "Reveal the Magic in VR: Behind the Scenes of Fantastic Beasts VR Experience". I was totally stoked to be working a VR session because, even though I was a CA, if we weren't scheduled to work a VR session, our passe's would not let us in. The VRDC is still pretty limited and a separate entity to GDC. They just don't want the room's being packed with nothing but CA's when the attendee's who are paying for the VRDC pass can't get in. Makes total sense but I hope in the future that this changes as the popularity of VR/AR continues to grow in the industry.

   So after arriving at the Session, I asked my fellow CA's if they were okay with me prepping the speaker again, and I got the opportunity! Resh Sidhu was the speaker for this session and she was an absolute sweetheart! She is known as the Queen of VR. It was an honor and a pleasure to have the chance to work and meet with her. Her session was absolutely wonderful! When I was prepping her, one of her friends has come up and started talking to her. Little did I know who this guy was at the time, but I also introduced myself to him. After I was done talking to her, I went to head toward the door to let the other CA's know that the session was about to start in 4 or 5 mins. Resh's friend had sat down near the door and as I passed him, I noticed he was wearing a black VIP GDC badge and was a Unity3D Executive! Well, I figured I had about 4 mins to try and impress him, as I am obviously looking for a career opportunity. After talking with him for a short while, he said that he had an upcoming project and a position that he thought I would be perfect for! I told him that was fantastic and that I would see him at the VIP Unity party later that week. He was pretty impressed to hear that I would be attending that party. We exchanged business cards and the session started. Come to find out, he is the head of the VR/AR strategy at Unity3D, Tony Parisi! I'll be talking more about this experience further down this post when I start talking about my experience at the Unity party but this was definitely one of the highlights of my week!

   Resh actually posted a video on her Instagram while she was talking with Tony from Unity and you can see me walking behind him in the video! :) How cool is that? (Purple shirt, black Overwatch hat)

A post shared by Resh Sidhu (@webkitten) on



Here is what the GDC website had to say about this session: (Click HERE for the website)

"A revolution has taken place inside the creative and technical process and it's being driven by the still-emerging medium of virtual reality. The sheer amount of problem-solving, rule breaking, and inventiveness the VR production process demands has reshaped the way creatives and technologists do their work and work together, setting the stage for never-before-seen kinds of creativity. Award winning VR Creative Director Resh Sidhu will give an insight into how to create highly engaging and visually stunning VR experiences that appeal to audiences and stay true to the powers of the medium. Resh will share his creative process from pitch to delivery, VR and VFX lessons learned and creative challenges and how to overcome them."

Takeaway:

Through behind-the-scenes videos, anecdotes, and step-by-step creative challenges, attendees will learn about the creative and collaborative process behind the award winning 'Fantastic Beast VR' Experience and how to apply that knowledge to their own work so they too can master the dark arts of VR in an ever changing landscape.

Picture compliments of Resh Sidhu's Instagram

Enjoy some pictures from the session that I took!



   If you have access to the GDC Vault and the VRDC videos, you can check out her entire session! Just click HERE to check out her session on the Vault! :)

   After this session was let out, I meet back up with my best friend and we walked around San Fransico looking for this party. Which actually ended up being the next day anyway. (lol) We obviously can't read! But we still had a long week ahead of us, so we headed back to the hotel for the night to rest up, as the really big parties were going to be happening the next few days. Plus, the work schedule I had for Wednesday was conflicting with a lot of interviews I had set up. So it was very important that I started to try and swap shifts with my other fellow CA's in order to attend them. YES! We could shift swap as CA's! How cool is that? I actually helped out a few CA's with swapping shifts that benefited both of us. I still can't believe how incredibly helpful and genuinely nice all the CA's were!


TUESDAY


   Another day of great adventures! Woke up and made it the morning meeting by 9 am. I then had a little time before my 1st work session at Noon. Actually met up with my best friend and another friend of his who just got into town and walked around the convention. I had an All-Access pass but my friends only had an Education Pass, so we walked around and socialized with as many people as possible. We were actually outside one of the CA lounges when we saw a lady passing out shirts to a bunch of people. I noticed she was wearing a Black VIP GDC Badge, so I made the move and headed over to introduce myself. Come to find out, it's the Amazon Executive who was running the Lumberyard booth! She was passing shirts out to her fellow employee's who were helping run the booth. She was very nice and excited to hear that I knew a lot about Lumberyard's recent news. (I did a lot of studying before GDC so that I had plenty to talk about with whoever I ran into) She actually invited me back to the booth when the Expo Hall opened up the next day for an interview with them! Just goes to show you that you can't be scared to go up and talk to people! :)

   I had to head to my work session around Noon, so I jetted over to the CA lounge to check in so that I could be one of the first CA's at the session. I wanted to prep the speaker again, of course, and in order to do that, I needed to be the 1st CA to arrive. But before I walked into the session, I have a small short side story for you!

Side Story:
~~~~~~~~~~~~

   So, I would say since last October, I started listening to a Podcast by one of the recruiters at Blizzard Entertainment. Since then, we have become pretty good friends online. He was actually attending GDC this year for the first time as well and we were going to have the chance to finally meet face to face! This guy is a fun-loving nerd just like myself and I absolutely love listening to his Podcast's. I try to catch them LIVE when I can, but I usually am either stuck working, so I always try to listen to them when I get the chance. Anyway, he met me outside the session's room before it started so we could finally meet! He is just as nice and kind in person as he was online! It was an absolute pleasure to finally get to talk face to face and meet his lovely Wife. He even brought me a small gift! :) How cool is that? Jess, if you are reading this, I have nothing but #NerdLove for ya! Keep up the amazing work and passion you have for the gaming and technology community! You can check out his podcast's website, which is called Rec LVL 3, by clicking HERE.

The cool gift I got from my friends at Rec LVL 3! :) Ahhh, I love it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

   Alright, now back to my work session! I arrived pretty early to the session and actually got to catch the Q&A of the previous session, which was called "Narrative Design in Virtual Reality" presented by Unity Technologies. I was very intrigued by the Q&A. Virtual Reality is still a touchy subject and no one really has a full understanding yet on how to develop for it perfectly. So it's nice to hear what the experts in the industry have to say when it comes to designing for VR.

   It wasn't a recorded session, or else I would put a link up here for those of you who had access to the Vault. Unity, however, wrote up a nice article on their blog describing this session! Check it out by click on the image they provided on the blog below!

Click the image to take you to Unity3D's Blog. The picture was provided by Unity3D.

Here is what the GDC website had to say about this session: (Click HERE for the website)

"Virtual reality storytelling builds upon the techniques from other mediums but also adds exciting new possibilities around character, environment, conflict, sound, and agency. Join us for a new perspective on cutting-edge plot mechanics as we unpack the most powerful narrative techniques in virtual reality today."

Takeaway:

"Learn tangible steps to crafting a truly original and high-quality story using time-tested techniques, interpreted appropriately for VR."

Picture that I took from the Q&A

   After the Q&A was done, I headed out to lunch to meet up with some friends from Milwaukee! I brought my best friend along with and we met up with my Instructor from MATC who owns his own Indie Game Studio. I wanted to introduce Chad to this guy! He has been an amazing inspiration to me and has always been there to give me great advice. He also used to work for EA and Pixar, so he knows what he is talking about. He was pretty impressed with me and the fact that I was going to be at the Unity party, later in the week, as he was attending it too. It was really cool to have someone at GDC from my town to share my experience with! You should check out his companies Facebook page and give him a like! 

Click the image to take you to Digital Iris's Facebook page!

   After our lunch meet-up, I headed back to the CA lounge for my next work session. This session was called "We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: Why the Mobile App Economy Needs Greater Control and Transparency" presented by ONE by AOL. I wasn't exactly what to expect from this session but again, I sure am glad that I was scheduled to work it. Otherwise, this isn't a session I would have normally attended. The speakers were incredibly nice and very easy to talk with. After attending to my prepping duties, I helped at the front door and made sure everyone got to their seats in time for the session to start. The session itself was very informative, going over monetization for app developers regarding advisements and how to not infuriate the user while still receiving the analytics that you desire as a developer. User experience is everything in this industry and is very important to me as well. 

Here is what the GDC website had to say about this session: (Click HERE for the website)

"Apps are the new consumer brands - one bad ad can turn off a user forever. With the maturation of the app economy, app developers can no longer manage user acquisition, app experience, and monetization in silos, but rather, as three components of a flywheel. This fireside chat will discuss ways in which app developers of all sizes can make better holistic business decisions and streamline monetization without sacrificing the app experience."

Takeaway:

"Monetizing in 2017 is hard. Users are app-savvy and fickle and competition is fierce. Smart app developers look at monetization in concert with user acquisition and app experience, not in isolation. Attendees will learn strategies for how to strike a balance that drives growth from one of the mobile game pioneers."

Intended Audience:

"Our session is open to all app developers looking for monetization guidance – no experience is required. Our experts, with 30 years combined experience, will cover monetization basics along with the latest news that's keeping you up at night. The conversation will be candid."

A picture I took from the session.

   There was a really great article written about this session that I found online. Feel free to check it out by click on the image that the article provided down below to learn some more insights on this session. This session was not on the GDC Vault so I figured I'd mention this wonderful article.

Click the image to take you to the article provided by fyber.com (Image also provide by fyber)

   After this session was over, I had some time to kill before I had to work my next shift. So I had stopped by one of the lunch areas they had at the convention. Ended up sitting next to some fellow CA's. One of them was a fellow CA who I became great friends during GDC with is actually one of the Lead Programmers at High Moon! He was such a chill and easy guy to get along with. After telling him what my gameplan was for GDC and that this was my 1st GDC, he was thoroughly impressed with what I have accomplished. Actually told me that I was going to do great things in the industry. That really meant a lot coming from someone who has been in the industry for nearly 20 years. Then a young woman sat down with us and started conversating with us. Come to find out she is from Austria. So I asked her if she knew my friend I had met on the first day in San Fransico, and of course, she did! Such a small world! She was a pleasure to talk too and was actually a speaker as well! Well, before I continue onto talking about my next work session, I have another side story for you!

Side Story:
~~~~~~~~~~~~

   So I had to finish up my lunch and head to the CA lounge to get checked in for my next work session. As I was throwing out my trash, I noticed a guy wearing an employee Overwatch jacket standing in the same lunch line I had just been standing in and he was by himself. I recognized him from somewhere, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. Since I already had a handful of friends who were on the Overwatch team, I didn't see any harm in going and introducing myself. So I slowly headed toward his direction and then started the conversation by complimenting him on his jacket. After doing my little speech on what I do, threw in some names of friends that I have at Blizzard, and told him that I have been interviewing at Blizzard since October, he actually told me that he didn't work on Overwatch, but actually was on the Diablo team! I thought to myself, "OMG, I think I know who this guy is!". He was the Art Director on Diablo, Mr. John Mueller himself! So without being a fanboy, I kept my cool and continued the conversation. Ironically, I was wearing my Raid+ polo at the time with my red Diablo T-shirt underneath. (The Raid+ polo in the picture at the bottom of this blog post) So I pulled up my polo to show him that I was wearing a Diablo shirt underneath. His response was "Oh yeah, I made that shirt!". (LOL) My heart dropped! If you know me, you know that Diablo is by far one of my favorite games of all time. So I kept my cool and continued the conversation with him for a little longer until it was about time for him to order his food. We exchanged business cards and he told me if I knew of any good UI artists, to send them his way. 

My shirt that I was wearing underneath my polo that John actually made! How cool!?!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

   My next work session was another VRDC session! I loved working these! This one was from the Founder of Funktronic Labs and the session was called "VR Interaction Design of 'Cosmic Trip'". It was also another amazing session full on insights for designing games in VR. Eddie Lee was really nice and it was a pleasure to have worked this session for him!

Here is what the GDC website had to say about this session: (Click HERE for the website)

"Virtual reality has given birth to an entirely new world of interaction design but also introduced new and unique challenges. In this talk, Eddie Lee of Funktronic Labs will go through the lessons learned during the course of designing VR interactions for 'Cosmic Trip'. He will discuss how to leverage haptics, physicality, audio design, interactions and visuals to develop a polished, cohesive and "juicy" VR experience."

Takeaway:

"VR as a medium engages the user's physicality in a very direct way, and having solid "game-feel" can truly elevate the experience to the next level. Eddie will go through all the lessons learned from countless iterations on Cosmic Trip's UI, haptics, interaction design, visual and sound design."


A couple pictures I took from this Session.

   If you own a VR system and haven't tried out Cosmic Trip yet, I highly recommend it! It's a totally fun and interesting game for VR! If you have access to the GDC Vault you can check out this session by clicking HERE. You can check out the gameplay action with this YouTube video provided by the developers!


   So after that Session let out, I had the rest of the day to myself! I had just one more day until the Expo Floor opened up and the remainder of my interviews were tomorrow! So I didn't want to stay out too late tonight, but there were also a lot of good sponsored mixers going on after GDC was over for the day. So I met up with my friends that I was staying with and we headed to the first social mixer of the night!


   The first mixer we attended was the Polycount & Marmoset meetup. It was a huge artist meetup and considering both my friends were artists trying to break into the industry, this was a perfect event to go too. As we arrived, there was a nice line outside. As we were waiting to get in, the Owner of Polycount was handing out stickers to the people in line. Luckily we were the last people to get a sticker from him! He actually was a really nice guy and talked with us for a little while. As we entered, the room was beyond packed! We were basically side-stepping through the entire bar! (lol) As we were hanging out, it got a little too crowded for my taste. I decided to head out to the Nvidia party and while my friends stay behind. Yes, there were people there I could have conversated with, but they were all mostly artists. I already have a ton of artist friends and I needed to venture out and meet new people, preferably those who are in my field. For my friends, however, it was a perfect opportunity for them to socialize and network with other Artists in the industry. We had discussed this before GDC even started that there will be times during the week where there will be artist hangouts that they should be attending and there are other events that I should be at. So we were well prepared to separate in order to make sure everyone got the most of their experience.

Picture compliments of Jan who posted this on the Polycount FB Event. Pretty jam packed!

   Before I left, I did grab a T-shirt on the way out and added it to the sticker I had grabbed earlier in line. My friends already got their schwag items so there was no need to keep it for them. However, it reminded me of my Blizzard friend who brought me a small schwag gift from earlier. So I figured I would pass on the kindness and I kept the shirt to give to one of my other Artist friends who is a Cinematic Artist on Overwatch. I had been texting with him throughout the day and he was unable to make it to the Polycount party. So I thought it would be nice to meet up with him the next day and give him the shirt and sticker since he couldn't make it! After receiving a gift from one of my other friends at Blizzard, I thought it was necessary to pass on the kind gesture.

   So I had received tickets to the Nvidia party on Eventbrite the week before GDC. It was called the "NVIDIA GeForce GTX Gaming Celebration". After looking it up on Google Maps, I realized that it was literally just a couple blocks from my hotel room. Considering I didn't want it to make it a long night, this was absolutely perfect! So I made the nice long walk over to the party and walked in without really knowing anyone who would be there. Luckily I ran into some of my CA friends! It's always great to have someone at an event with you that you know as it makes you more confident in introducing yourself to others. I had a fantastic time at this sponsored mixer! There was even an open bar and appetizers being served which you can't beat for a free event. Nvidia had a live stream going on stage and having interviews as well as a couple VR setups and a ton of computers with the latest games showing off the Nvidia graphics cards. I wasn't there but for only a couple hours but for the short time that I was, I met some really great people! Ended up hanging out with a Project Manager from USA Today who was previously in the gaming industry and a few of his friends, one being a guy from the QA Sledgehammer team. All in all is was a great night and after the party let out I headed back to the hotel room to call it a night and get some rest. As tomorrow was the 1st day of the Expo floor opening up and it was going to be the busiest day of the week for me and our fellow CA's. I wish I had taken more pictures from this event but I was too busy socializing and networking with a lot of amazing people!
Picture of the Eventbrite event. These sold out fast so I'm glad I was able to get a ticket!




Video from the NVIDIA party that I took and posted on my Instagram. It's a little hard to follow and next year I plan on taking way more pictures and quality videos.



WEDNESDAY


   So the busiest day of my week has come! We actually had to be at the CA morning meeting at 8 am instead of 9 am because it was also the busiest day for the CA's as well. In order for me to attend the meetings I had set up for this day, I had to do some shift swapping with my fellow CA's. I was able to have most of the day off with only having work 1 session in the morning at 8:50 am. The shift wasn't anything crazy and actually was the quietest work shift I got to work. It was a Speaker Rehearsal room shift, where the speakers could come and practice their speeches. There was a sign-up sheet on the board but only 1 speaker showed up during the couple hours I had to stand there. As soon as I was relieved by a fellow CA, I jetted to the Expo Floor, straight to the Unity3D booth to try and grab a wristband for the Unity party on this night. I was told by the person running the booth to stop by and grab one and also the Unity executive I met on Monday also told me to stop by and grab one. Unfortunately, when I arrived, she had already run out of wristbands. This was a little disheartening at first, but with the contacts I had already made, I was not worried about it. More on this later!

   After that, I started walking around and meeting up with contacts that I had set up with on Linked-IN and through personal friendships. I also had a handful of interviews today! So after walking around the Expo Floor, looking for particular booths to stop to say hi! It was wonderful to be able to finally meet with some of my contacts for the first time face to face! Here are some pictures from the expo floor that I took, enjoy!












 The AMAZING CREPES from GDC! These are legendary during GDC! :D
First picture if of my Crepe. 2nd Picture is compliments of the Crepe man's Twitter.

I had to send this picture back to the Wife as she is a Vet Tech. A cat game? How cool and creative is that!

   This was basically the first round of pictures from the Expo floor that I took. There was so much that I wanted to play and enjoy but I will save that for a future GDC. This time, like I've said, I was here on a mission to network and obtain an opportunity to get my foot in the door with an amazing company!

   So for one of my meetings, I met with a recruiter who represents EA/Bioware, near the IGDA booth. I have been talking with her on Linked-IN before GDC and we decided to meet up today. The interview went really well! We talked for quite a while and discussed my passions and goals in life. She was very easy to talk to and answered all the questions that I had. I am pretty positive that I impressed her and she said that as soon as she see's a position that I would be a good fit for that she would contact me right away. Fingers crossed >.<

Image provided from EA's website.

   I wish that this meeting could have gone a little longer, but I had to run off to another meeting. This time it was my meeting with Telltale! This interview was set-up using the GDC Connect tool. I had sent out a few requests for meeting using this tool, however, it wasn't really too efficient. I would still say it was successful considering I had obtained 2 interviews using it, but I feel like I could have set up a lot more if the website was set up differently. It was hard to message people back and forth without 'declining' the meeting. I had some responses where the person declined the meeting but told me to stop by the booth and ask for 'so and so' to talk about career opportunities. Hopefully, GDC received some of my feedback on this for next year.


   My interview with Telltale was fantastic! I sat down with one of their Designers and explained my current situation and what my dreams and aspirations were. Luckily, he too was a fellow Military veteran and we clicked very well. He was very knowledgeable in his field and obviously just as passionate about game development as I was. We must have sat down and talked for at least 2 hours! He even took the time to give me some really good advice on my Resume and even offered to collaborate on it with me after GDC. (Which we have been doing! :) ) All and all it was a fantastic experience to be able to sit down with someone who is a professional in the industry, being able to listen to their insights and story on how they got into the industry. Telltale is an awesome company with a ton of cool games and it would be an honor to work for them! Ironically, when he originally accepted my meeting a few weeks before GDC, the CA program was setting up their mentorship program for new CA's. Why is this ironic? Well, literally 2 days after the Designer accepted my interview request, the CA's paired me up with my mentor who worked for Telltale! So needless to say I have been very lucky to acquire some really great contacts at this company.

Super cool backpack and pen I received after my Interview with Telltale! Epic! :)

   The Telltale designer also contributes to a wonderful gaming charity community for veterans called Stack-Up! I am going to find out a little more about the community and talk with him to see how I can start up my own chapter here in Milwaukee. This organization does a lot of good things for Veterans and I would love to be apart of it! For now, I just actually submitted my application to join the organization for the Oshkosh location here in Wisconsin! I will keep you updated on this progress! You can check their website by clicking on their logo image below! Follow them on Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter! :)

Image provided by Stack-Up's website. www.stack-up.org

   So the night was beginning and there was a ton of great events happening on this night! The Game Developers Choice Awards were happening on this night! All though I could have attended this event and even had the opportunity to work it, I had to focus on my interviews and networking this year. I will be attending this event next year! 

Click on the image above to see all the winners from 2017!

   A huge shoutout to my friends at Blizzard who work on Overwatch! They won Game of the Year! Congratulations on all the hard work! It was so exciting to hear this news! 

Image provided by playstationlifestyle.net

   There were even some fellow Conference Associate's who either won or were nominated for an award this year! Truly an honor to have such wonderful individuals a part of the CA family! To any of my CA family who was one of these lucky folks reading this, congratulations to you as well!

   The Independent Games Festival Awards were also happening on this night! Just like the GDCA, I wish I could have also attended this event! I wanted to so badly, but like I mentioned, obtaining an opportunity to get my foot in the door at an AAA company was my #1 goal for my first GDC. Anyone who had the chance to attend this award show, I am truly jealous! Congratulations to all the 2017 winners! Being an Indie Developer, I know that this is a huge accomplishment and I know all the blood, sweat, and tears we pour into our games.

Click on the image to see all the winner's from 2017!

   So after my wonderful interview with Telltale, I headed back to the CA lounge to relax for a little bit and get ready for the Unity party! I headed back to my hotel after relaxing for a bit and talking with some of my fellow CA's to get ready for the party. 

   We ended up meeting up with my contact at another party by Xbox before we headed to the Unity party. Met with some of her friends who were developers from other countries. One of my favorite things about GDC was getting to meet all the wonderfully passionate developers from other countries! Truly was an honor and a great experience for me.

   So we headed to the Unity party after a short side quest of trying to find the wristbands that she was given to get into the party. After a small search, we just ended up heading over anyway as she was good friends with the Owner and Founder of Unity3D. We have been connected on Linked-IN for a little while and needless to say, I was more than excited to meet him. After arriving the security obviously, would not let us in as we did not have our wristbands. She called David up and he personally came out and escorted us to his party! How cool is that? Truly felt like a rockstar and I could have not been happier at this point.


   We headed inside and we got our party on! There was a really cool booth that Unity had set up to take funny pictures! We had a blast taking a few pictures in the booth with some really awesome people! I absolutely loved hanging out with some of Xbox's Game Changers! What are the Game Changers? Xbox has sponsored a group of talented women for the Women in Gaming organization. According to their website, "Xbox is giving 30 women currently enrolled in college or less than two years’ industry experience the opportunity to attend the Game Developers Conference – all you have to tell us is what motivates you and why you think you’re a game changer!  Selected winners will receive an All-Access Pass to the Games Developer Conference, a ticket to the Women in Gaming luncheon, and dedicated mentoring and networking opportunities with leaders from Xbox and the games industry." So it was a pleasure to have met with and discussed the gaming industry with these passionate women in games! These are women who are at the top of their game and are just as passionate about game development as I am. It's great to see Microsoft and Xbox supporting these amazing women!

   My best friend and I were having the time of our lives at this party! :) There was a DJ with a dance floor, photo booth, open bar, a pizza food truck outside, and they even had a custard ice-cream station! CUSTARD!?!?! Being from the Midwest and seeing custard at this party, made my heart melt! (lol) It was also cool to meet up with my Professor from my college back home! Although we got to the party a little later after it started and he was heading out for the night, it was still great seeing him there. He asked me if I was ready to make the most out of this experience, and I responded, "Well, I made is this far, I'm here and I am not about to ruin this opportunity!" (lol) 




   So after taking some pictures and hanging out with some friends, I got to introduce myself the owner and found of Unity! He was an extremely humble and stand up gentlemen! I am truly honored to have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with him at the party! I then went to search for my other contact I had met earlier in that VR session with Resh I had discussed up above about the possibility of a Unity job. I saw him and he was extremely surprised to see me! Luckily, the day that I first met him, I sent him a short and sweet email to make sure he didn't forget me by the end of the week. We talked for a little while and he was very impressed that I had emailed him right away. Or in his own words "That was very smart of me!". I mean, I don't expect a Unity Executive to remember me after the tons of people he meets throughout the week. Plus, he's an extremely busy person. So I wanted to make sure that I stuck out from the crowd with him and that he wouldn't forget our conversation. So I am glad that I emailed him on Monday night after meeting him the first time. Fingers crossed that something comes out of this because I would absolutely LOVE to work for Unity3D!

   So I spent the rest of the party, eating food, socializing, and dancing with my friends! The Unity party was by far the best sponsored GDC party of the week! I had so much fun and met so many amazing people, it was a dream! My friends and I took an Uber back home after dropping off some other friends at their hotels and called this a night! 


THURSDAY


   Now that the craziest night of the week has passed, I had to work 3 sessions today due to swapping shifts with my fellow CA's to have off for yesterday. So I headed to the CA lounge early in order to get a good breakfast in for today's long work day. My first session started at 9:30 am! 

   My first session I worked today was geared towards animators and it was called, "Physics Animation in 'Uncharted 4: A Thief's End'". All though I am not an animator, I absolutely love learning about other disciplines in the industry and seeing how they accomplish their work. Animation is by all means not an easy task and I give mad props to anyone who is really good at doing them. 

Here is what the GDC website had to say about this session: (Click HERE for the website)

"For 'Uncharted 4', Naughty Dog, Inc. chose to take a risky step and experiment with adding a layer of physics simulation on top of their gameplay animation for added fluidity and momentum, with hopes that they could also save some production time by creating less assets and letting the physics do the awesome.

Initial results were pretty terrible because of the physics' tricky nature and physically absolutely unrealistic gameplay animation. Players tend to prefer responsiveness over reality, after all. But one day, their physics programmer found a way to drive the physics objects with animation more predictably, with minimal distortions and almost absolute artistic control."

Takeaway:

"The audience will learn about Naughty Dog's new method of driving physics objects with animation. Many examples will be shown with detailed explanation of each setup, problems they encountered and solutions to those problems."

Intended Audience:

"This is a very technical talk, so basic knowledge of in-game physics simulation, animation blending and layering is beneficial. Although, this talk has many visual examples, so it may serve as an inspiration for general animation audience."

   It was an extremely intriguing talk about the developers from Naughty Dog figuring out how they attempted to experiment with physics simulation on top of their gameplay animations and how one of their programmers solved this problem. He went into depth about rigidbodies and constraints as well as the problems they faced and overcame during this experiment. Michal was a great guy to get to talk to and meet with! I am glad I was scheduled to work this session!


If you have access to the GDC Vault, you can watch this entire session by clicking HERE!

   So I didn't have much time between my sessions today, so after this session was let out and my CA's came to relieve me, I headed over to the CA lounge to check in for my next work shift.

   My next session was a sponsored one from Xbox! I was really excited for this one because they were going to be talking about Halo 5 and Azure. The session was called "Xbox LIVE Compute: Lessons from Creating and Destroying Worlds on a Spectacular Scale (Presented by Microsoft Azure)". This was also an amazing session to learn more about the power of Azure's cloud platform and how it's used in game development.

Here is what the GDC website had to say about this session: (Click HERE for the website)

"Launching and managing games at scale while maintaining efficiency and enabling innovative, differentiated gaming experiences is a difficult set of challenges to balance and achieve. Xbox Live Compute is a dynamic and elastic dedicated server platform that bundles Azure core functionality to addresses these challenges across multiple gaming platforms. The platform has been the foundation of multiplayer gaming for some of the largest titles ranging from Titanfall to Halo to Rainbow Six: Siege to Gears of War 4. Join us as we examine how we enabled game developers to focus on the game experience rather than infrastructure by meeting the needs of compute and network offload at scale, lessons that were learned along the journey, and how the platform is evolving as a result."

Intended Audience:

"Developers either building a Mobile, PC or Console games; Indie-developer or a developers/architect from large game studio."


Some wonderful pictures I took during the session! :)

   It was great to hear about the experiences AAA companies who used this platform along with their struggles and solutions. The Xbox LIVE Compute platform is truly amazing and the cloud is going to be a big part of a lot of these big titles now and in the future, especially when it comes to very large multiplayer maps. It was great to hear how this tool is being used for Crackdown 3 and how it's going to be a truly massive destructible world! Joseph was a very intelligent individual and I am honored to have had the chance to work with him during his session! As I am trying to get into program management in the gaming industry myself, it was refreshing to talk with him, listen to his expertise, and experience. Unfortunately, this session was one of the rare ones that were not recorded, however, I did find a nice article describing the session! Click on the image below to take you to that article!

Image provided by the Dual Shockers article.

   Before my next session started, I did have one last interview to attend too! This meeting was with Six Foot LLC out in Houston, Texas. Having lived in Houston for 8 years previously, this company really was interesting for me. Although, by this point, after all my interviews and meetings, my brain was complete mush! All though they did not show up to where the meeting was scheduled, I had to run over to their booth in order to get interviewed. The GDC Connect tool was a bit confusing and I was in the right place for the meeting. By the time I got to their booth, I had to make it a short interview if I wanted to make my next work session in time. So, unfortunately, the meeting was a little rushed and add that to my brain-mush, I probably sounded like an idiot but they were completely understanding. I think that most of us who were working throughout the week were just as exhausted as I was. I will be following up with them as well the weeks after GDC is over along with all the other companies I interviewed and met with.


   My next session was a pretty popular one that I was unaware of until I got there. I had the opportunity to prep the speakers and oh' boy was I in for a treat! This was one of the big anticipated sessions of GDC 2017 and I was lucky that this was actually one of the shifts I picked up during a trade with another CA! It was called "#1ReasonToBe". 

Here is what the GDC website had to say about this session: (Click HERE for the website)

"#1ReasonToBe features six speakers from emergent territories around the world discussing game development in their country in their own, personal way. Through 8-minute presentations, they will each share their #1ReasonToBe in the game industry, and tell us their stories of game development, community, culture and opportunities in their home country. With speakers from South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia, #1ReasonToBe will show you just how much more globe there actually is in the industry's global medium."

Takeaway"

"1ReasonToBe will expand the audience's understanding of game development around the world, the communities that exist around the world, and give an insight into the many cultures not traditionally represented in the industry's medium."

   I must say, I knew people developed games from around the world, but what an experience it was to hear first-hand from them about their own experiences. Listening to these incredible individuals really opened up my eyes on the struggles and challenges other developers face outside of the US. We don't really appreciate how lucky we are here in the states with what is available to us. People in other countries have to fight and work even harder to accomplish the same goals the developer here have. One of the speakers from Pakistan even had me a little teary-eyed after listening to his inspiring story! This session truly made me appreciate what it means to be a real game developer and made me proud to be a part of the gaming community. He even received a standing ovation from the audience after he finished speaking! You can watch the entire session if you have access to the GDC Vault by clicking HERE!

Image provided by VentureBeat.com

Image provided by GamesIndustry.biz

   There were a few great articles written about this event that describe the importance of this session and how it impacted so many people. Check out and click on the links below to get a great inside look on how this session went down and why it was so important!



   GDC released their Flickr photo albums after GDC was over. Click HERE to check it out! I went through all the pictures searching for one that had me in it. Ironically, the only pictures I ended up being in were from this session! :) How cool is that!?! I made the official GDC photo album! (Red arrows pointing to me)




   After the session was over, I personally made it a point to go and shake their hands. These are truly some inspiring people in my industry and they deserve recognition! I highly recommend checking out this session if you have access to the vault!

Side Story:
~~~~~~~~~~~~
After this session let out and my reliefs showed up I headed to the CA lounge to relax and to find out what my friends were up too. Ironically, they were at the W Hotel across the street hanging out with about 5 developers from the Overwatch team! I didn't even hesitate and darted straight to the W hotel to catch up with them! There were a few programmers and artists from the Overwatch team I had not met yet and it was so cool to hang out with them! Especially after they just won Game of the Year the night before! We were there for quite a while, hanging out, discussing game development and programming. After talking with one of them for a while myself, come to find out, both of our Wifes are from the same place! Waukesha, WI! How cool is that? He said that the next time he and his Wife are in town that we should grab a beer together! Man, I am just still in awe how awesome of a time I had at GDC. To be hanging out with my idols was the coolest thing ever! Plus, as I was hanging out at the W, invited my friend who is also on the Overwatch team to come hang out with us. Although he couldn't stay long as he had to run to a session, he brought me a gift! Yes, another gift from one of my Blizzard friends! The fanboy inside of me was exploding with joy! Plus it was really cool to received a gift from a fellow Blizzard employee in front of all the other Blizzard guys we were hanging out with! Made me feel like a rockstar!



~~~~~~~~~~~~

   So after hanging out at the W for a while, my friends and I headed to get some food and then headed back to the hotel room for the night. We were all teally exhausted by this point from all the walking around and the unbelievable time we have been having all week. Our hotel was about a 25-minute walk from the convention and between walking back and forth from that, to the parties, and around GDC all week, we were all beat! Plus, we still had 1 more day of GDC to go!


FRIDAY


   Today was the last day of GDC! I didn't want this week to end at all! But I was going to make the most out of this last day! I had to be at GDC for the morning meeting again at 9 am. I woke up at a fairly decent time to make it for breakfast and to hang out with my fellow CA's in the lounge before the morning meeting started. I had two work sessions today and both of them I was very excited for!

   My first work session was actually not a session at all. It was one of the Roundtable talks! This was cool because I had not had the privilege of attending one of these yet due to my crazy schedule. Luckily, I received this shift from one of my trades I had with a fellow CA. The Roundtable was called "Automated Testing Roundtable Day 3: Implementation". This was actually a session I wanted to attend but was focused on networking and interviews. So needless to say I was honored that I swapped shifts on a day I needed off and picked up this one. I can't even begin to tell you how many important people showed up for this roundtable. There were people from Unity3D, Riot, Blizzard, Bungie, Ubisoft, Microsoft, and more! Just to name a few. This session was incredible and these roundtable sessions were awesome! It was so cool to hear people collaborate on this topic from different companies and to see how everyone does automated testing within their companies. Plus, the guy running today's roundtable was from Spry Fox and he was extremely awesome!

Here is what the GDC website had to say about this session: (Click HERE for the website)

"Automated testing provides a team with more stable software at an earlier point in development, allowing easier scheduling and fast iteration. Yet investing in automated testing has a bad reputation in the industry, where just-ship-it is the mantra. Maybe, as gamers get ever more frustrated with day one patches and management demand even more features to compete with the AAA behemoths, its time has finally come. This roundtable, returning again in 2017, will bring together people of all experience levels to talk about how they use automated testing in their team, be it unit, integration, regression testing, or something else entirely. This session will focus on the technical details of SDKs, frameworks and tools that can be used to automate testing." 

   From reading the description, you can see why I was so thrilled to be attending and working this session. After it was over, I hung around and talked with a few Project Managers from Microsoft and also from Blizzard and handed out a few of my business cards. I love networking! Plus, I learned a lot from this session and it was interesting to hear all the different techniques of automated testing from the industries top companies. I think that these roundtable sessions should be recorded in the future for the GDC Vault. I would totally sit, watch, and listen to these if I didn't have the chance to attend them during the conference.




Pictures I took from the Roundtable while working as a Conference Associate. I even got the chance to talk for a little bit about testing before release. :)

   So after this session let out, I headed to the Expo Floor one last time to check it out. Before I did, I headed to the CA Lounge to drop off a few things and put on my Raid+ polo. As I did, I was walking by the bulletin board and something interesting caught my eye! I ended up passing this, stopping and reversing to do a double take. You bet your butt that I put my business card into this bag! Ha! :)

Yes, that says Bethesda Recruiter! 1 of millions of perks of being a Conference Associate!

   So I headed to the Expo Floor! I stopped by all the booths I interviewed at and thanked everyone who interviewed me or gave me the time of day one last time before everyone left. Which was a really smart idea on my part! I even got to say goodbye to David (Owner and Founder of Unity3D) before he took off! Showed him some of the pictures from the Unity party and thanked him for the wonderful time! :) Here are some the last pictures I took from the GDC Expo Floor.








































   After walking around the convention for a while, I had to head to my next and final work session of GDC 2017! Sad I know, right? But this session was really epic! The speaker was one of my long time idles as he worked on most of the games at Blizzard, everything from WoW, Diablo, and Overwatch. The session was called "Thinking Globally: Building an Optimistic Future of 'Overwatch'".

Here is what the GDC website had to say about this session: (Click HERE for the website)

"The world could always use more heroes! 'Overwatch' is Blizzard's newest universe, featuring a diverse cast of soldiers, scientists, adventurers, and oddities doing battle around the globe sixty years in the future. Learn how a team-based multiplayer shooter went from a simple idea: "a world worth fighting for," and ended up with the sprawling story of 'Overwatch'. This session will reveal the lessons learned and the challenges faced as the Blizzard team built their optimistic, inclusive vision of the future."

Takeaway:

"Hear about the process of creating the world of 'Overwatch' from inception to launch (and beyond!). this talk will focus on specific anecdotes and challenges in developing the story, bringing the cast of heroes to life, and creating a diverse and inclusive world."

Intended Audience:

"Anyone with an interest in story development and building diverse, inclusive worlds."

   I actually showed up a little behind schedule as there were already a few CA's who arrived before me. But I was able to convince them to let me be able to prep the speaker! Which I was more than honored to do! So I proudly wore my Overwatch hat on and headed to talk with Michael Chu! He was actually super nice and really easy to talk too. I did what I had to do with him as far as my speaker prepper duties go and got the show on the road! This was a packed session so I had to make sure we filled every seat possible without breaking any fire code safety. This was also a session where we had to watch for people recording (after the first 5 mins), which there was a lot of. (Lol) Not that I don't blame anyone for recording, but rules are rules. Overall the session was very informative and a great insight into how Blizzard's game Overwatch came from just an idea to the Game of the Year that it is today. His session went extremely well and it was obvious he put the time in to have a great session for everyone to sit through. After the session was over, I had to make sure no one was bum-rushing the stage, as I had that issue in previous sessions. There was a lot of equipment on stage and we didn't want the attendees crowding the stage and surrounding the speaker. This was the last session in this room, however, so we didn't necessarily have to kick everyone out to a Wrap-Up room for the next session. I talked with him again before I left and gave him my business card. He said to shoot him an email and to keep in contact. What a great way to end GDC, with such a wonderful person and an idol at that. Needless to say, I left this session with a big ole' smile on my face!

Picture compliments of GDC Vault.

   If you have access to the GDC Vault, I highly recommend checking out this session by clicking HERE! Especially if you are an Overwatch fan like me!

A picture I took at the start of the session!

   After that session was over, I was to meet up with the rest of my CA's to help close down the GDC Store. It's a CA tradition to help close down the store but before we pack everything up, we get a chance to shop the store at a special discounted price! How cool is that? At this point, my funds were pretty low, but I couldn't pass up on the deal that they gave us. So I grabbed a GDC Jacket and a Sweater for myself, a sweater for my best friend as it was his birthday in a couple weeks, and I also grabbed something for my Wife. I was extremely happy that I was able to get some GDC schwag before I left without having to break the bank. :) Here are some group pictures from the CA lounge, outside the store as we were waiting and of my clothes I acquired!


This was the main CA lounge. Top image I took and the bottom image came from a fellow CA I found on Facebook. Chairs and games in the back, laptops with internet access, food, drinks and places to store our stuff. It was our own little safe haven to come relax and hang out with great people!


Got up in the front row for this wonderfully amazing picture!

I have my back turned in this picture, but I'm the guy with the black backpack with the yellow stripe helping out in the GDC Store. The picture is compliments of a fellow CA.

Some of the awesome GDC apparel I picked up!

   After the store was closed up it was time to get things ready for the infamous CA Postmortem! This was an event where we all got together one last time for a meeting to discuss the week, give feedback, and they handed out all kinds of cool prizes that were donated to us from many different companies and fellow CA's! The prizes were absolutely incredible! Plus, whatever was left at the GDC store was donated as part of the prizes too! I was absolutely stunned by this. I knew there were going to be prizes, I just didn't expect the quantity! Everything from PSVR's, to a Laptop, to $500 Google Cloud cards, T-shirts, autographed games, collectibles, and gaming schwag galore! It was absolutely awesome! They took all of our pictures we had up on the board and put all the pictures into a bag and started drawing names while at the same time we were able to come up to the microphone and provide feedback. 

A collage of pictures I took during the postmortem.

   The postmortem went way faster than I had expected even though it was about 2 hours long. I don't know if I was just exhausted or extremely excited about all the prizes to notice the time fly by. (lol) I was able to walk away with some pretty cool stuff! Everything from a Pop! figurine, to a movie, to some cool gamer schwag, and even some more clothes from the GDC store. I didn't win any of the 'big' prizes but that was totally cool with me. I was happy that I was just able to be a part of this wonderful family!

   Before we left, there was one last thing everyone had to do! We had to have one last huge group photo! The last few years, some of the CA's have tried to get everyone together to try and make a Triforce triangle from Zelda with all the CA's. I think we nailed it this year!

This picture was taken by a fellow CA. I am located at the bottom left corner of the Triangle wearing my black Overwatch hat. If you can spot me! :)

   After this picture was taken, I headed back up to the CA lounge to gather up my belongings as we had to have everything out of the lounge by midnight. I made my rounds, said my goodbye's, and met back up with my friends who were waiting for me outside. My good friend from Austria invited us her back to her hotel room as she was having a bunch of friends come over to hang out for the night.

   When I got to the hotel, I handed my friends the gifts I had gotten for them and started talking with some of the amazing people who were there. We were having a good time and were reminiscing about the incredible week. There were even a few Game Changers who were there and wanted to know more about my experience and how I was so successful at my 1st ever GDC. This really had me blown away because I felt like I was the little guy in the room. These Game Changers are women who have accomplished a lot in their lives, hand picked by Xbox and were truly rockstar future professional game developers. To have them asking me questions and looking for my advice really meant a lot to me. After hanging out at the Hotel for a while, we all decided to go out. Some of the group went to the club to dance, and the rest of us went out to a cigar bar.

   My friends and I ended up going with a group of Hungarian developers from Nemesys Games to the cigar bar and hung out with them the rest of the night. Not because we didn't want to go to the club but mostly because we were all basically broke at this point. (lol) These guys were absolutely awesome. I was very impressed with how well their English was! It was an honor to have the chance to hang out with them. They treated us as we have already been long time friends. Not only were they completely awesome, they were also extremely talented VR game developers! I loved getting these opportunities to hang out with people from other countries and this was a night I will never forget. I hope to one day get the chance to travel to Hungry to hang out with them one day. That would be fantastic! You should check out their Facebook and give these guys a follow! You may have even heard of some of their work if you are an avid VR fan. :) After this was over, I had to head to the hotel and make sure to catch my flight back home which was at 4 am Saturday morning.


Click on any of the two images above to take you to their social sites!

A 360* image the Nemesys crew took that night. It's a panoramic image here but you can see the 360 photo on my Facebook by clicking HERE.


FINAL THOUGHTS

    Well, what can I say that really hasn't been said already. GDC was an absolutely life-changing experience for me. Did I have a successful event? Yes, times a million! Not only did I have multiple interviews, I also was also able to network with tons of great people! These past few weeks after GDC, I have been following up on all my interviews. >.< Fingers crossed! I truly hope that I land something soon! Trust me, as soon as I do, I will be making another post all about it!

The stack of business cards I received during GDC. This was only the people who exchanged cards with me. Not everyone I talked with had cards on them or gave me a card either. None the less, I think I still did pretty good. Took me forever to get through this stack of cards and re-connect with everyone when I got home.

   I was given the chance to be a part of something bigger than myself, something that I hold dear to my heart, something that I am very passionate about, and was able to share that experience with the most wonderful and talented people I have ever met. I got the opportunity to meet and hang out with some of my idols, attend some epic sponsored parties, network, meet tons of new people, and learn from some the best game developers from around the world.

   I want to personally thank the wonderful and amazing human being who hand-picked me to be one of the CA's this year. The gentleman who has been doing this for over 25 years. Ian, if you are reading this, you truly are an inspiration to me and I could never repay you for what you have done here for me. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for bringing me into your wonderful family!

Image provided by a fellow CA on Facebook. 
He is my idol, my inspiration, and the one guy I aspire to be one day!

   Would I recommend attending GDC to someone who is interested in going? I wouldn't just recommend it, I would ask them what the hell are they waiting for!?! If you want the chance to meet the most amazingly kind, talented, and helpful people in the gaming industry, GDC is the place to be. If you are looking to get your foot in the door in this industry, GDC is the place to be. Not only will you have fun walking through the expo, playing all the new and upcoming games, learning about and playing with upcoming technology in the gaming industry, meet or talk with your idols, you will also leave with friends for a lifetime. You can't put a price on this experience. It is worth every penny spent! Plus, after all the walking around all week, I lost close to 15 pounds! Crazy, right? If you ever want to loose weight, take a trip to San Fransico and walk around the city. I guarantee that you will lose weight!

   I just have never had been apart of a group who was so helpful, knowledgeable, and just genuinely happy. It's so amazing to be apart of a community like that in the crazy world we live in. It's important for us as game developers that remember these things. That we try to spread the same joy and happiness we had at GDC into the world we all live in. I will be a Conference Associate for the rest of my entire life if they let me!

Game developers are here to change the world and we meet every year at GDC. 

Come join us next year! Have any questions? 

Ask me, I can help! :)

#SoCAWeALL


See you all next year at GDC 2018! Save the date!



A goofy post I made before I left for Raid+'s social media for people to reach out to me at GDC.